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10 Reasons ‘Love Jones’ Still Does It For Black Love & The Culture

Hmph. As if you needed any reasons to watch 'Love Jones' on Netflix...right?

Culture & Entertainment

I must admit that, when I saw that Love Jones had finally—yes, finally—made it onto Netflix's viewing library, there was a part of me that smiled—a lot. Even though I've personally seen the movie so much at this point that I can almost recite the lines, verbatim, along with all of the characters, I think it's cool that a movie that is—wow—now over two decades old is something that still resonates so much with those of us who were in our 20s when it came out and with millennials and Generation Z even now.

I'm telling you, out of all of the Black movies that I'm a fan of, Love Jones continues to remain at the top of my list. It's so real. It's so relatable. It's so Black. And that is why, when I heard that it was a new Netflix feature, I asked my editor if I could pen a piece on why it's the kind of timeless classic that should warrant cozying up on the couch with your boo, having some of your girls over to watch it while sipping a little wine or introducing it to a college student who thinks it's too old to be personally relevant.

There are probably a billion of reasons why I think Love Jones is an awesome tale of Black love and a great depiction of Black culture but, off of the top of my head, here are the 10 that resonate most.

1. The Love Story Is Unapologetically and Unbelievably Relatable

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Darius (Larenz Tate) trying to play it cool in approaching Nina as he spills a drink at the bar. Nina (Nia Long) writing on Darius's hand but it being the word "love" and not her number. Darius semi-stalking Nina at the place where she was housesitting (yes, housesitting; she didn't have a job and that is some realism like a mug). Their first date starting off with hanging at some of his friends' house. Them experiencing a first kiss that was so intense that it led to sex—and Darius making an omelet. Darius trying to act like it was all good when she brought up seeing an ex, only to end up going off to Savon about it. Nina showing up with Hollywood at Sheila's party, getting embarrassed while masking it as anger, Darius offering to walk her to her cab stop and saying one of my favorite lines of the film—"Stomping up and down like you lost your f—kin' bike." Nina taking Darius on a date and then trying to play coy when she was horny as well. Darius acting like he didn't care when Josie told him that Nina was leaving and then him trying to chase Nina down.

If you're a fan of the movie like I am, you know I could go on and on.

To me, one of the best things about Love Jones is it reminds us that relationships are euphoric…and messy…and wonderful…and frustrating. Darius and Nina weren't perfect or even really perfect for each other. But they loved each other, they desired each other, and that combo put the will in them to make their relationship work. Between that and the movie being set in Chicago, along with all of the Black culture nuances that ran throughout the entire film—y'all, if that ain't real and unapologetic, not just love but Black love, I don't know what is.

2. Darius and Nina Remind Us Great Sex Only Gets One So Far

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I can't remember exactly where I saw or read it, but I do know that many women have praised the kissing skills of Larenz Tate (Vivica especially shouts his skills out on Sway right here). As far as the first kissing scene in Love Jones, it was so magnetic that it earned an honorable mention in The Atlantic's "Actually, Kissing Is Good" article. I get it too. Honestly, if I had to provide a list of some of the best sex scenes in a movie, Love Jones would go on that list. Nia and Larenz have some off-the-charts chemistry and, whenever I watch the movie, I must admit that it takes me back to some of my own experiences in real life (le sigh).

But about halfway into the movie, you know what else happens? I am reminded of why I thought it was important to pen articles like "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner" and "Experts Believe Passion (Not Love) Makes Sex Better. You Agree?". If you pay really close attention to how everything played out, you'll notice that a lot of what Darius and Nina shared was passion. It was really after breaking up and experiencing some independent growth that they got to the healthy love portion of the program.

Oxytocin. Orgasms. Each are one hell of a drug. Just because someone puts the "Boon doon"—as Darius called it—on you, that doesn't automatically make them your soulmate. It takes a heck of a lot more than sexual chemistry to make a relationship work and last. Love Jones teaches this lesson oh so well.

3. They Also Teach Us That Game-Playing Gets People Absolutely Nowhere

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I recently penned a piece on here entitled "Women Cheat More Than We Think. What To Do If That's You." As I was reading some of the comments across our socials, I was doing a mixture of laughing and shaking my head (side to side, not up and down) because it never fails—when men cheat on women, they are jerks, full stop. When women do it, there is always a justifiable explanation. It's not totally wrong just…"kinda wrong" (if y'all say so).

Nina, boy. Her homie Josie was her girl and everything, but that advice she gave Nina regarding telling Darius about seeing Marvin to see if Darius would get jealous is emotional manipulation 101. So was Nina going there, coming back and trying to jump bad about Darius hanging out with his something-to-do-sometimes "friend", Lisa. Then, once they worked through that, Nina picked another fight over Lisa calling Darius even though Darius never asked about her kicking it with her ex or her dating his homeboy Hollywood. The games we play, y'all.

Even though the blow-up that caused Darius and Nina to break-up was hard to watch, what I liked about it is everything got out in the open; they were able to take some time apart, process, and come ultimately back together in a much more real and honest space.

Remember in the movie Two Can Play That Game (Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox) where the main female character said at the end that she realized you can't control a man with games and rules—especially ones that you may not be keeping yourself? Love Jones is a movie that echoes this sentiment. Very well. Any time you're tempted to play a game or two, watch the movie instead for a little bit of a reality check.

4. All of Us Know Each of the Main Characters in Real Life

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You know acting is done well when you kind of forget that that's what's happening right in front of you. The cast of Love Jones had such good chemistry and dialogue with one another that sometimes I wonder if they went off script and ad-libbed a lot of their stuff. Either way, pretty much every character reminds me of someone who I personally know to this day.

Think about it. All of us have an always-horny-always-keep-it real friend like Josie (Lisa Nicole Carson). All of us have a Sheila (Bernadette L. Clarke) who has no screen saver on her face and is constantly throwing side-eyes. All of us have an Eddie (Leonard Roberts) who is the king of "It's not what you say, but how you say it." And, all of us have a hatin' ass "friend" like Hollywood (Bill Bellamy) who we tolerate because he's funny as hell.

If Living Single is an ode to Black friendship on the tube (and it is), Love Jones is definitely an ode to Black friendship on the big screen, which brings me to my next point.

5. The Friendships Are Loyal, Authentic and Healthy (Except for Wood)

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When Nina broke up with (whew, he was fine) Marvin (Khalil Kain), Josie helped her pack. When Savon was cheating on his wife with a fellow teacher, Darius called him out on it. When Wood was the wackest and pulled a Lil' Fizz (some of y'all will catch that later), the entire team let him know how foul he was for doing so. Yeah, something else that I really like about Love Jones is it's not just a romantic love story; it's a platonic one was well. It beautifully depicts intimacy between men and men, women and women and women and men—single and married alike. It's a reminder that Black love has layers and each one is stunning in its own signature and purpose-filled way.

6. Isaiah Washington Was Still Woke Back Then

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2019 has blown my mind on a few levels. And while what I'm about to say probably doesn't even scratch the Top 50, it is something that caught me off guard and is relevant to this list. As a fan of the art of acting, Isaiah Washington gets his props in my book. Crooklyn. Girl 6. Dancing in September. Soul Food (the series). Get on the Bus. His bumpy-yet-still-relevant ride on Grey's Anatomy. An indie flick where he was pure evil—The Undershepherd. And yes, as the—at least to me—sexy hubby who dished more wisdom than he could take but was still conscious and woke, Savon in Love Jones. And that doesn't even really scratch the surface of Isaiah's IDMB credits.

But after he caught a few of us way off guard by announcing to the world that he was (what in the world?!) a Trump supporter (le sigh again), I've actually watched Love Jones a couple of times this year, just to remind myself that Isaiah and Savon used to have a whole lot more in common than they seem to now. Savon, talk to your boy. Goodness.

7. Creatives Are Winning

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Nina is a photographer. That's dope. As a fellow writer and author, Darius quitting his job to write a book is magnificent to me. Yes y'all, not only were these two lovers both creatives, they supported one another's craft; you've got to give that props on a whole 'nother level.

Plus, the movie offers another teachable moment when it came to their professions. While they were both living in Chicago, I think a part of why they couldn't make their relationship work was because they were still trying to manifest their purpose. But isn't it interesting that once Nina moved to New York to work for, I believe it was Vibe and she thrived for a year, Darius was able to complete his novel? Then, once they were able to scratch their professional itches, they could finally get their personal lives on track?

If you're someone who is a creative and is currently on the fence about stepping out, or if you are trying to figure out if you need to put a relationship on hold until you can figure out what you want to do and be, Love Jones definitely has some scenes that you'll totally be able to connect with; they might even offer you a bit of much-needed clarity too.

8. It’s One of the Greatest Shout Outs to the Art of Spoken Word

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I got my start in writing as a spoken word artist. I used to be a house poet at a joint called The Spot here in Nashville. As life would have it, the very first standing ovation that I ever received was for a piece called I'm Single and That's All Right with Me (that's still the case, by the way). I penned and performed it in the fall of 1997. Spring of 1997 is the year that Love Jones was released. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that it provided some of the inspiration that I needed. Anyone who is a spoken word artist or poet (which are similar but not exactly the same; spoken word artists and poets know that), they probably have a soft spot where this movie is concerned, simply because it pays homage to the art form. Not to mention the fact that Darius's "Brother to the Night"/"A Blues for Nina" is a classic piece. It was back then. It still is—even now.

9. The Cinematography Is (Still) on Point

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As a fan of film, I really dig cinematography and yes, there are scenes from Love Jones that are truly unforgettable. Scenes like when Nina is riding on the back of Darius's motorcycle or when they are playing Hide and Seek (I guess that is what they were doing) while running on a foggy day in the park. There's Darius as he was chasing Nina's train at Union Station. Oh, and don't even get me started on how Nina has a way of always keeping her make-up looking both timeless and flawless or how, when a lighting team knows what they're doing in the presence of greatness—that would be us—Black people shine on a whole 'nother level.

There are some Black films that are cool as far as the screenplay and/or acting goes that I still don't enjoy watching that much because the visuals are dated, corny or both. Yet although I am fully aware that Love Jones is 22-years-old, and it does have a bit of a vintage feel, it still looks good. The cinematography was well done. Very much so.

10. The Soundtrack Is One of the Best…Ever

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I reference music a lot in the copy that I write because music is something that I adore on so many levels. And as if all of the other reasons that I just provided weren't enough of a reason to load up your Netflix tonight, another reason to remain a fan of Love Jones until the end of time is because of the soundtrack. Listen here. There's "Hopeless" (Dionne Farris). "I Like It" (The Brand New Heavies). "The Sweetest Thing" (Lauryn Hill). "Rush Over" (Marcus Miller and Meshell Ndegeocello). "In a Sentimental Mood" (John Coltrane and Duke Ellington). And the song that needs to be on everyone's sex playlist—Maxwell's "Sumthin' Sumthin': Mellosmoothe". And shoot, those are just my personal favorites.

Man. I can't believe that penning all of this has gassed me up, once again, to either watch the movie, listen to the soundtrack, or both. But that's the power of a good film. Especially a great Black one. Good move, Netflix. Good freakin' move.

Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Join founder Necole Kane, and co-hosts Sheriden Chanel and Amer Woods, for conversations over cocktails each and every week by subscribing to xoNecole Happy Hour podcast on Itunes and Spotify.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Larenz Tate & His Wife Have Maintained Their 14-Year Marriage By Putting Friendship First

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An Ode To Love Jones

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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